Proposed Toastmost.org Subscription Fee Starting in 2020

Heads up, users of the toastmost.org service for hosting club websites. Because relying on donations and sponsor advertising isn’t generating enough money to cover my costs, I plan to begin charging $30 per club per year at the beginning of 2020.

This fee will apply to clubs whose website has been registered on the site for more than one year. Going forward, I will continue to allow a generous one-year trial period — which should be long enough for clubs to see the value.

Metrics of success I would suggest looking for when you decide whether to stick with toastmost.org or migrate away to Free Toast Host, easySpeak, or some other option:

  • Visitors praise your website when telling you how they found your club. This assumes you have published valuable, engaging content (the software doesn’t do that for you, but it should make it easier).
  • Your VPE and other officers are saving time when organizing the agenda and appreciate features like automated meeting role reminder messages.
  • You recognize the value of paying to support investments in improving the security and performance of your club website.
  • Even if you’re not taking advantage of them yet, you appreciate the availability of options for online dues payment and online submission of member applications.

If you are not achieving success with the platform, I am available to coach you to greater success. Everything on the list above is something my clubs have achieved, which is why I decided to share these resources with other clubs in the first place. Moving to a paid model will mean redoubling my commitment to making more clubs realize the value of the software and services.

Outside of toastmost.org, the same software is available, free and open source, for you to install on your own web server. That can be a good option for those with the necessary budget and technical wherewithal, but toastmost.org hosting means I worry about most of the techie details.

A friend advised me to name a higher number (based partly on the idea that people often don’t value things that come cheap), but $30 USD is calibrated to be substantially less than the cost of hosting and independent website and not so much that any club can’t scrape together that money once a year.

Donations and Sponsor Advertising Still Welcome

I still hope to raise a little money through donations and sponsor advertising — see the information posted at wp4toastmasters.org/support — and I thank the handful of sponsors and advertisers who have helped out over the past few years. Ultimately, I think it’s fairer to everybody to require a modest annual contribution from all toastmost.org users than continue to lean on a few generous people and clubs.

My own small editorial/digital consulting business will continue to contribute to the cause, operating this venture at a modest loss — I just can’t afford to allow the loss to keep growing. I personally will continue to contribute substantial amounts of time to improving the software because I love the challenge and believe in the mission of providing Toastmasters clubs with better digital tools.

I welcome your feedback.

David F. Carr
Webmaster for toastmost.org and founder of the WordPress for Toastmasters project.
david@wp4toastmasters.com

Web-based member application for Toastmasters

As the founding President of an online club, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to construct smoother workflows for processes like enrolling members. This online member application submission and approval process is part of that. We’re currently piloting it at both Online Presenters Toastmasters and Club Awesome (a traditional offline club) and have seen a flurry of new applications in the space of a few days — which looks to me like evidence that we’ve successfully reduced some friction in the process.

By “online,” I mean this is an application process built where the new member fills out a web-based form that includes agreement to all the same legal terms you would find on the PDF or paper versions of the application. The completed application is saved as an HTML formatted document that is stored as part of your club’s online records and can be shared via email.

Update, June 22: I’ve now gone through the process of submitting a couple of transfer applications in this format to the Membership Department at the Toastmasters International, and they’ve accepted them with one proviso. As additional validation of the member’s digital signature, they have asked that the member personally confirm the transfer request by email.

The video below shows the user experience for the member completing the application and paying dues, as well as the reviewing and approving incoming applications, then creating member accounts on the website.

This is part of the WordPress for Toastmasters system for club marketing and meeting management. It takes advantage of the online payment features introduced a few months ago.

If no online payment has been received, the club officer reviewing the application will see a notice saying so at the top of the page. That notice is accompanied by a payment link you can copy-and-paste into your follow up email to the member. Or maybe you have received a payment by check or some other means, in which case you can ignore that alert and approve the application anyway.

No payment warning

Setting Up the Form

Getting this to work includes a little back-end setup to establish your club’s dues schedule and create a page on your website where the application will be displayed. There is a separate settings screen for this feature, labeled TI Application Form.

When you first load that setup screen, you will have to fill in some blanks. If you haven’t previously signed up for an account on the stripe.com online payment service and obtained the required API keys for integration with the website, you’ll have to do that now if you want to take advantage of the online payment feature.

Once you’ve completed the setup, the screen will look like this, with details on your own dues as well as the TI dues prorated by month.

Note that at the bottom of the setup page there are links to view or edit the member application page. That page will contain a placeholder code for the form itself, but you can add your own content before or after it (for example to provide some additional info on your dues).

Page with placeholder code for the application.

Before creating this, I verified with Toastmasters International that the legalese in the membership application form includes terms about how a digital signature on an application is legally binding. That’s something you agree to when submitting a digital application.

However, I believe this is much less awkward than emailing around PDFs (in my online club) or dealing with data entry issues like unreadable handwriting on paper forms leading to emails being entered incorrectly when we register a member (an issue for my offline club). It’s also one smooth process rather than a series of fragmented processes.

Replay: User Meetup May 25

Here’s a replay of the second in this series of conversations about the WordPress for Toastmasters software, what it does well today, and its potential for the future. Thank you to everyone who participated. I’ll be following up with answers that came up during the event, and anyone who watches me is welcome to send their own questions.

WordPress for Toastmasters User Meetup

Saturday May 25, 2019 1:00 PM EDT
 

Users of the WordPress for Toastmasters software will gather for a meetup to exchange tips about how to use your website more effectively, both for club marketing and meeting management. This meeting was set up to be more convenient for Toastmasters in the UK, EU and other regions in approximately the same timezone (6 pm London Time / 1 pm EDT / 10 am PDT – see all timezone conversions here).

Online meeting details will be displayed once you register (below), and those details will also be emailed to you.

Software creator David F. Carr will be on hand to demo the core features and a few recent additions, but we will also have participation from other Toastmasters leaders who have been using the software successfully.

For active users, this is your chance to share what’s working well for your club, what you would like to see improved, and contribute creative ideas about web and social media marketing of Toastmasters with your peers. If you are just learning or evaluating the software, you will be able to hear multiple perspectives on why it’s worth learning (for one, the base software is something you can use to market your own business and nonprofit activities).

Confirmed panelists:

  • Nik Lakhani has been active in Toastmasters since October 2016 and is President of Warrington Toastmasters, where he previously served as VPE. In the coming year, he will be in an Area Director. He’s also a member of 4 advanced clubs: Ablaze, Firebirds Collective, Global Trainers Online and Online Presenters.
  • Kip Meacham has been a Toastmaster since March 2014, is an ACB, and is the VPPR of Precision Speakers in Salt Lake City, UT. Kip is vice president of marketing for BitRange Technologies and has over 20 years of high-tech marketing experience combining communications, analytics and a pinch of non-evil behavioral science to inform and assist established and potential markets.
  • Sue Ness has served almost every officer role at the club level, and met David Carr when they were both District 47 Area Governors.  Familiar with the struggles of keeping up with member participation and achievement progress, she suggested reporting enhancements in WordPress for Toastmasters.  She is currently VPE of Juno How to Talk.

Event date is past

Optional Rules for Managing Your Agenda

The latest software update includes a couple of tools club leaders have asked for to give them greater control over who can edit signups by other members and to prevent or discourage abuse of the self-service role signup tools. The use of these features is optional. You will find the setup for them on the Rules tab of Toastmasters Settings.

The new Rules tab on the Settings screen.

Restricting Access to the Edit Signups Feature

The first set of settings are related to who will be able to access the Edit Signups link on the agenda. By default, the system allows all members to access that function as needed. However, you can restrict it so only the site Administrator (or another member with an elevated security role such as Editor or Manager) has access to the Edit Signups function.

If you choose to limit access by security role, you may still want to permit access to the Edit Signups function for the Toastmaster of the Day if the TOD is responsible, or partly responsible, for organizing the agenda and ensuring roles are filled. Depending on how your club operates, you might also want to give the General Evaluator that ability. Since these are meeting-specific roles, access would only be granted for the specific meeting for which a member is serving in that role.

A Point System for Speeches Versus Other Participation

Large clubs or those with many ambitious speakers may occasionally experience issues with members monopolizing the available speaking slots. The points system allows you to monitor abuse of the self-signup feature or have the software prevent it.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each member starts with 4 points (you can change this)
  • Each speech signup “costs” 2 points (you can change this)
  • Members earn 1 point for every supporting role (every role other than speaker) they sign up for.

In other words, if you stick with the defaults, the idea is members should fill some other role roughly twice as often as they sign up to speak.

The least intrusive way to use this feature is for club leaders to periodically check the new Speaker Points Report and, perhaps, have a talk with anyone who looks like they’re abusing the system.

Here’s a glimpse at that report with a member’s negative score highlighted in red. This is one of the reports listed under the Reports Dashboard.

Speaker Points Report

Next, you can specify that you would like to warn members when their point balance drops below zero but not actually prevent them from signing up to speak.

Here’s what that looks like:

Prompting a member to sign up for another role.

Or you can prevent members from signing up for to speak as long as their point value is negative. In that case, the Take Role button just isn’t displayed for speaking roles.

Preventing a member from signing up to speak.

In that case, a club leader such as the VP of Education who has the authority to Edit Signups can override this prohibition by putting the member on the schedule anyway. (To make this enforceable, you will want to ensure that regular members cannot access the Edit Signups feature.)

Other rules needed?

Do these options suggest other rules you would like to have the option of turning on?

WordPress for Toastmasters User Meetup

Thursday May 16, 2019 7:30 PM EDT
 

Users of the WordPress for Toastmasters software will gather for a meetup to exchange tips about how to use your website more effectively, both for club marketing and meeting management.

Online meeting details will be displayed once you register (below), and those details will also be emailed to you.

Software creator David F. Carr will be on hand to demo the core features and a few recent additions, but we will also have participation from other Toastmasters leaders who have been using the software successfully.

For active users, this is your chance to share what’s working well for your club, what you would like to see improved, and contribute creative ideas about web and social media marketing of Toastmasters with your peers. If you are just learning or evaluating the software, you will be able to hear multiple perspectives on why it’s worth learning (for one, the base software is something you can use to market your own business and nonprofit activities).

Confirmed panelists:

  • Tricia Grow is an Area Director in District 38, a member of 4 clubs (including 2 online clubs) and mentor for a club currently working toward charter in Carlisle, Penn. Soon to be a DTM.
  • Aaron Leung is a Freelance Barrister & Founder of Project Infinity (a community for clubs with online attendance). He has been a Toastmasters for 12 years.
  • Lori Whitmore, a DTM times 2, has been a Toastmaster for over 23 years, serving as Area Governor, as club President (5 times for 5 different clubs) and has chartered 2 clubs and helped charter two more. As an IT professional, she has helped her clubs with agenda automation using easySpeak, Free Toast Host and now WordPress for Toastmasters / Toastmost. She’s also taught TLI classes on serving as club webmaster.
  • Julie Murphy is the President of Grub N Gab Toastmasters and actively uses her toastmost.org site to post club updates and schedule roles.

Event date is past

Test

Tuesday May 7, 2019 7:00 PM EDT

Test

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Support for the Engaging Humor Path, Plus Updated Evaluation Forms

Picking a one of the new Pathways humor projects.

The Pathways universe has expanded with a new Engaging Humor path centered on a series of humorous speaking projects. The Know Your Sense of Humor project also shows up as an elective for the other educational paths.

To keep pace, WordPress for Toastmasters now show the new path and projects on the signup form.

In addition, each of the new projects is now represented by an online evaluation form the covers the same questions and prompts as the PDF evaluation form. These are not meant to be a replacement for the official educational materials, but they can be handy as an alternative to filling out a paper evaluation.

Online evaluation form for Know Your Sense of Humor

The online evaluation forms were particularly intended for use by online clubs, where members are otherwise in a position of emailing PDFs back and forth, or printing and scanning evaluations. Personally, I also find them a good alternative to delivering feedback in my sloppy handwriting.

Thanks to Roger Fung, VP of Education for Online Presenters Toastmasters, for helping me track down the evaluation forms I was missing.